Historic, archived document
Do not assume content reflects current
scientific l<nowledge, policies, or practices.
, ' ^ . !
1 a ri A R Y
^ , . , . . , 1 . . g. .ys, i^« S ^ S~'&
United States Department of Agriculture ^ -^ ^ ^
Bureau of Biological Survey | ^^ \AM 3 1938 ^
ITildlife He search. ?^nd Maiagoinent Leaflat ES-35
IFashington, D. C ' ' * Rev. Decern oer 1937
pre-oared in the Section of 3\ir Hes'ources, Division of Y/'ildlife Research
Liaiiy persons unfamiliar ?dth the industry of raising muskrats have oeen
deceived "07 statements that these valuaole fur-bearing animals cm be produced
profitably in small pens. Kiis, however, is not the case. The first essential
in muskrat farming is a good marsh or similar water area of at least a fevr
hundred acres in extent, in which the animals are nov/ found naturally, or in
which they once lived. . •
Areas adapted to muskrat production are of three main classes, grouped in
the order of their importance: (l) Harsh areas, (2) swamps, and (3) ponds, lakes,
streams, canals, and other bodies of water without marshy borders. More muskrats
are found on given areas of the first type than on either of the other two. The
m.arsh itself produces the food necessary to maintain the muskrats snd t.o induce
them to live and breed there. The problem on marshes is largely ono of guarding
against poaching and of employing trapping methods that are not incompatible with
maint-.ining an adequate breeding stock.
pen Raising . .
Although it is possible to raise muskrats in pens, it is not a profitable
undertaking as a fur-production measure. Reproduction under such restraint is
not regular; and losses result from xoolluted drinking water and from, fighting
among the animals. More money has to be invested in equipment, feed, and labor
than can be realized from the saie of pelts, and for this reason a n'omber of com-
panies have discontinued their attempts to raise muskrats in small pens.
Fencing Marsh Areas
As a rule, large muskrat ma^rshes need not be fenced, ao.t in some instances
fencing may be desirable. Steel posts are satisfactory on high and dry land,
but in m-uck or in wet ground, wooden posts a^e more serviceable. Posts may be
16 to 20 feet apart, the depth to which they are placed depending upon the nature
of the soil. 'The fence may be sunk 10 to 12 inches below the surface of dry
gro-ujid, but in marsh and bog lands much deeper sinking will be necessary. ?/ire
of l-inch mesh, 15-1/2 gage, is g-uitable for a muskrat fence.
Studies on the breeding habits of muskrats are far from complete. The
breeding season generally'- starts late in February or early in March in the
northern part of ITorth America, and earlier in the South. One frequently- hears
the statement that in marsh areas of Louisiana and Texas muskrats breed all the
year rouaid. Thi's, however, is still open to q^uestion. The Bu-rena of Biological
Survey has foruid that the period of gesta,tion in carefully controlled matings of
pen-rsised animols is 29 to 31 daj.^s • The average litter produced by a yo'ang
female numbers about 4 ;ind cy older females about 6. Those born in the first
litter in spring may produce young in fall.
Muskrat pelts taken in fall and early in winter are i.?orth scarcely- half as
m,uch as those trapped late in winter and early in spring. The fur is still prime
in the latter part of March, but the breeding season in most sections has then
begun, so that trapping continued into April would greatly limit the number of
animals for the next season. Muskrat fsmers v/ould do well to limit their trap-
ping season to two months—February and March.
Fart-her Suggestions .. ,-.,■';•
General information on the description of muskrats, how the animals live
and build their houses, hovj they behave, vfhat they eat, and what uses are made
of their furs, is contained in Farmers' Bulletin 869, the Muskrat as a Fur Bearer:
With iJotes on its Use as Food, copies of vaicn. may be purchased for 5 cents each
from the Superintendent of Docoments, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
(stamps not accepted).
Other publications dealing with muslcrat production, not, however, obtain-
able from the Federal Government, may be had from the .publishers, as follows:
The Fu:r-5earers of Hew York in their Relation to Agriculture, by W. J. Hamilton,
Jr., Cornell Extension Bui. 313, March 1935, I'ew York State College of
Agricu-lture, Cornell University, Ithaca, IT. Y- Free.
The Muslcrat Industry in Maryland, ^o:/ E. Lee LeCompte. Game Division, State
Conservation Commission, 512 Munsey Building, Baltimore, Md. (Free, but
send stamps to cover postage.)
The Muskrat in ITew York, 'oy Charles F. Johnson. Hoosevelt Wild Life Forest
Experiment Station, Syracrise, 1'. Y. 40^-
Successful Mu-skrat Farming, by- Robert G. Hodgson, Black Fox Magazine, 404 Fourth
Ave,, iJew York, N. Y. $4.
Practical Ivruskrat Raising, bj- A. E. Harding. Black Fox Magazine, 404 Fourth Ave.,
i^ew York, IT. Y. $1.25
- 2 -